Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Snipers Club

If you've ever read anything about soccer or watched enough telecasts, you know well by now that the clichéd gold standard for goal scorers is to strike about once every two games or better. It's the line to strive for, no matter where in the world one laces the boots.

And if you read my stuff over at MLSS, you may remember a bit ranking the top Argentineans to ever play in Major League Soccer from a couple months ago. In that list, I noted that only 10 players in league history with at least 100 MLS games under their belts (combining regular season and playoffs) had achieved a goals per 90 minutes mark better than Montreal star Nacho Piatti, and that all of them were forwards (which he is obviously not).

Well, I can go further than that. There are 19 players with more than a century of MLS matches that hold a career mark of better than a half-a-goal for every 90 minutes played. And again Piatti is the only one that cannot be described as a forward. In fact, sixteen of them are dyed in the wool center strikers. It goes to show just how impressive the Impact's recent run to the top of the East has been without their main weapon.

Back to the main topic at hand, there are some snipers well worth mentioning that are not on the list below. Atlanta United ace Josef Martinez (0.911 goals per 90) should reach 100 MLS games very early next season, and when he does, he'll rocket straight to the top of the chart. Chicago cobra head Nemanja Nikolic (0.636) should jump into the top five this year if he stays in the line-up (and, ya know, gets enough service) and the Fire make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Ola Kamara (0.560) missed out on a top 10 spot when he departed having played but 95 MLS games. 

He's not the only former league goal hound that misses out on qualifying due to a coming up short on league matches. Stern John (0.873 rate in 60 games) and Mamadou Diallo (0.732 in 76 games) would already be leaders here with more MLS participation, while Cyle Larin (0.590) and Obafemi Martins (0.548) fell just 13 and 20 games short of easily making the list, respectively. Like Diallo, Camilo (0.530) needed 24 more appearances to qualify, whereas Marco Di Vaio (0.515) needed 23.

Of course, we can't forget a couple of legends with gaudy goal rates who have failed (or quite likely will fail) to chart due to their relatively brief MLS involvements. Didier Drogba (0.684) did his considerable damage in only 33 games, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic (currently on 36 games) would stand as the efficiency king of all MLS scorers thanks to a ridiculous 0.944 rate.

There's also a small group of notable MLS stars that narrowly missed the list by scant percentage points: Brian Ching, Dom Dwyer, Eduardo Hurtado, Joe Max-Moore, Ante Razov, John Spencer, Erick Torres, Dante Washington and Chris Wondolowski all were (or are, in the case of a couple guys there) reasonably close but not quite. And yes, Landon Donovan was also not far off with a career rate of 0.464 goals per 90 minutes.

But enough with the ceremony, here are the 19 players in league history with a goals per 90 average above that oft-stated "goal every two games" line (active MLS players are marked with an asterisk). A few may surprise you.

0.699 David Villa
0.663 Bradley Wright-Phillips*
0.658 Robbie Keane
0.630 Jozy Altidore*
0.617 Sebastian Giovinco
0.605 Carlos Ruiz
0.602 Raul Diaz Arce
0.592 Roy Lassiter
0.585 Taylor Twellman
0.561 Giovani Savarese
0.546 Ignacio Piatti*
0.541 Alvaro Saborio
0.541 Mauro Manotas*
0.527 Juan Pablo Angel
0.522 Pete Marino
0.515 Fanendo Adi* 
0.514 Ariel Graziani
0.513 Diego Serna
0.513 Jeff Cunningham

- Greg Seltzer

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